Three sideshow performers leave their lives of captivity and become "The Unholy Three." Echo the ventriloquist assumes the role of a kindly old grandmother who runs a bird shop. Tweedledee, the "twenty inch man," becomes her grandbaby, and Hercules is their assistant. Soon an incredible crime wave is launched from their little store. Written by
David Ezell <email@example.com>
During the scene where Echo and company are fleeing the pet store, Echo decides to take his pet ape with them. The "Ape" was actually a three-foot-tall chimp who was made to appear gigantic with camera trickery, an especially built smaller scale set to make it look bigger, and perspective shots. When Echo removes the ape from his cage, the shot shows Echo (with his back turned to the camera) unlocking the cage and walking the ape to the truck. The ape appears to be roughly the same size as Echo. This effect was achieved by having dwarf actor Harry Earles (who played "Tweedledee" in the film) play Echo for these brief shots, and then cutting to the normal sized Lon Chaney, making it seems as though the Ape is gigantic. See more »
Toward the end of the film, while Echo (Lon Chaney) and Rosie (Mae Busch) are having their conversation in the wooded area outside the cabin, both characters are clearly casting shadows on the scenery behind them, revealing that the 'woods' are actually a painting on a canvas backdrop. See more »
Vowing revenge on the world of normal' people, a sideshow ventriloquist, strong man & dwarf band together as THE UNHOLY THREE.
Following Lon Chaney's great film successes at Universal Studios, Irving Thalberg managed to entice the actor to come to MGM. Anxious to repeat the box office bonanzas of Chaney's recent past, Thalberg signed a one-picture deal with Chaney's favorite director, Tod Browning. The resulting film, THE UNHOLY THREE, was such a hit that Thalberg quickly signed Browning for a long-term contract.
Based on a story by Tod Robbins (who would also pen the inspiration for FREAKS), Browning would give the film an appropriately menacing atmosphere, with flashes of comedic wit at just the right intervals. A crime caper rather than a horror film, the chills are saved for right near the end with the rampages of a ferocious ape (actually a chimpanzee, photographed out of proportion) which no one seems surprised to find in a bird store.
While ventriloquism may seem an odd pastime to depict in a silent movie, Chaney made it all seem so sensible. A consummate artist who only now is starting to receive the proper accolades, Chaney did not need to contort limb or face to portray a little old lady. All he needed was a wig & a dress. So well was he received in this role that it was chosen to be remade five years later as Chaney's talking debut.
Muscular Victor McLaglen (a British Army champion athlete) and tiny Harry Earles (one of the few adult actors who could disguise himself as a baby) give very solid support as Chaney's wicked cronies; much of the favorable outcome of the film is due to them.
Pensive Mae Busch scores as the waifish pickpocket allied with Chaney; this very talented actress would get to shine a few years later in a series of appearances with Laurel & Hardy. In his one scene as a stern judge, Edward Connelly lends his saturnine presence to the proceedings.
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